The generational divide just got a lot more complicated…

Just as we begin to understand how we integrate millennials into our workforce (see our tips here and here) a new generation of young people, eager and ready to join the world of work is beginning to present itself at interviews and job fairs.

Are Centennials that different from the generation before them?

Centennials are about 2 billion strong worldwide and represent close to 26% of the worldwide population, and importantly – are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in our history.  And whilst most of them are still tapping the Bank of Mum & Dad for pocket money, they already have £5.1 Billion in annual spending power (in the UK)…

As a rough guide, Centennials reached eighteen in about 2016, so most are well through college this year and are beginning to think about their future careers. This presents an exciting opportunity for brands and employers seeking to connect with them.  But there are a few things to be mindful of when reaching out to this young cohort.

Do you remember the challenges of being a teenager?  Exactly. 

These challenges haven’t gone away per se, the context of those challenges remains the same, even if the content has changed slightly.  Acknowledging and understanding these significant life changes can help in better preparing you for your first contact with Centennials in the workplace.

A key difference between Millennials and Centennials is technology – both generations are tech savvy, but Centennials acknowledge the ill effects of technology, too.  A study by agency Sparks & Honey found that Centennials are aware that their screen time may be excessive, and nearly 59 percent of them admit to spending too much time online – the way they use tech is changing too…

“With millennials, we’d started dumbing down content from 60 seconds to 30 seconds to 15 seconds and then 10-second snaps, six-second Vines and 140-character tweets,” said Gayle Troberman, CMO at iHeart Media. “With this generation, we’re telling clients to flip that model and make storytelling longer and more engaging.”

Here you can find more on personal engagement and storytelling

Another quality that characterises Centennials is their commitment to open-mindedness, inclusivity, and tolerance. This often expresses itself in an attitude of “oh you do, do you.”  A statement without judgement or pre-conception, but almost a blasé acceptance of difference.

On the one hand this represents a fantastic opportunity for the HR profession.  Imagine a demographic within your workforce actively pushing for inclusion and equal representation for all – not simply because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do, but because inclusion is part of their world view and an inherent value.  How can we use this enthusiasm?

However, on the other hand… We’ll have to improve the quality and the transparency with which we communicate business decisions to this group.  This will be especially challenging for businesses that work in traditional functions or find themselves spread across subsidiaries.  And we can’t emphasise enough the importance of communication here – and lots of it.

Both generations opt for flexibility on the job but above all Centennials, like their Millennial counterparts, value constant communication with their managers.  Both generations will have grown up with the ability to give and receive feedback instantly, frequently and whilst mobile. They don’t simply want a star or thumbs up on a yearly rating form, they want to see constructive feedback.

If a manager is unable to give them this guidance and coaching – in real time remember – then the manager is no better than a troll on YouTube…

And finally (for now!) perhaps the most interesting difference to be emerging between Millennials and Centennials…  Millennials seek freedom to develop their work and personal projects; they are innovative, question authority and are experts at using technological tools and social networks.

Centennials are beginning to exhibit characteristics of loyalty, creativity, and favoring financial security from their employer.

But in stark contrast, Centennials are beginning to exhibit characteristics of loyalty, creativity, and favoring financial security from their employer.  The HR profession has spent many years working with generations who exhibit some if not all those characteristics. Whilst that doesn’t mean engaging with Centennials will be easy, we will have done the ground work and with a little preparation – the introduction of this new generation won’t come as such a shock to our business.

To find out a little more on Centennials, the awesome folk over at Kantar Futures have put together a little infographic